As Oxford University’s newest state-of-the-art library opens this weekend after a three-year, £80m transformation, we invite you to see inside for the first time.

Bodley opens a new chapter

Bodley opens a new chapter

After three years concealed behind hoardings, the Bodleian’s new Weston Library finally has its official opening this weekend. But Oxford Today can invite you inside early to savour the reading rooms, glimpse the book stacks and see the conservators at work.

Technically, this is a refurbishment of Giles Gilbert Scott’s New Bodleian Library, which first opened in 1940. However, ‘refurbishment’ understates what has been achieved over four years at a cost of £80 million.

The result is a new library behind a familiar façade, housing three reading rooms, a visiting scholars’ centre, a lecture theatre, seminar rooms and a centre for digital scholarship.

There are also storage facilities housing the Libraries’ collections, a café, a shop and rooms where conservators do their work, right. The ST Lee exhibition gallery will host a changing programme of displays, and a further gallery — the Treasury — will display some of the Bodleian's most important works. Collections at the Weston include the largest set of pre-1500 printed books in any university library; one of the largest concentrations of political manuscripts anywhere; unrivalled holdings on poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Gerard Manley Hopkins; and key archives of papers by J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis and their circle.

The library extends three storeys below ground level and houses a new floating stack, below, while the main entrance hall greets visitors with a cathedral-like, lofty atrium full of light.

Bodley opens a new chapter

Bodley begins a new chapter

One eloquent feature of the design by Wilkinson Eyre Architects is the wall of shelves in the Charles Wendell David Reading Room, interspersed by tall windows that look across Broad Street and the Old Bodleian to the dome of the Radcliffe Camera, above.

For the three reading rooms, which opened in September to readers, three-legged oak chairs (below) have been made by Isokon Plus to a competition-winning design by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby.

Bodley begins a new chapter

Bodley begins a new chapter

Three basement levels provide nearly 40km of shelving, above, enough to accommodate 1.4 million volumes.

The opening weekend (21-22 March) includes 45-minute tours of the Weston Library all day Saturday and Sunday, as well as a programme of talks, a printing press demonstration, a showcase on book conservation, and musical performances by Oxford Jazz Agency and Oxford Pro Musica Singers. Talks will be by Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden, curators and heads of departments, Wilkinson Eyre co-founder Jim Eyre and Gilbert Scott expert David Lewis. An exhibition, Marks of Genius: Masterpieces from the Collections of the Bodleian Libraries, comprises books and manuscripts from across the Bodleian collections and looks at genius, learning and the role of a university library.

There is a book accompanying the exhibition, and there is one forthcoming too on the library’s transformation, New Bodleian: The Making of the Weston Library. Hoardings on Broad Street are coming down and the new glass frontage and entrance there will be open on Saturday to welcome visitors and readers.

Bodley begins a new chapter

Find out more:

All images © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford / John Cairns, reproduced by kind permission.

Comments

By Vibha
on

All this is very well, but how does the university and all the faculty working in South Asia justify closing down the Indian Instutute Library? The brilliant collection books, gazetteer, census reports which were availble on open shelves , are sorely missed.

By ANTHONY M D SMA...
on

The collection will indeed be sorely missed unless there are measures in place to ensure easy access to wherever the IIL library is now located. Some of my most fruitful hours were spent in the IIL stacks, both on serious research and on fascinated browsing which turned up such wonderful chance findings as the thousands of early 3D photographs of life under the raj.

By Andrew Escalante
on

Wow, I love books.......

By Reader
on

The India Institute materials are still on open shelves, now in the Charles Wendell David Reading Room, which houses non-Western material! The material not on the shelves can be ordered, so access is still available to all the IIL material.

By Dr Patrick Curry
on

I was deeply saddened on a recent visit to Oxford to find that the Duke Humphreys Library is no longer a living, working library. One cannot order books or manuscripts and staff have been withdrawn. No one was there bar a security guard and a few visitors, and it is now a sad and empty place. This is an act of cultural and intellectual vandalism by the Bodelian Library and Oxford University. To be able to read seventeenth-century manuscripts in a seventeenth-century library, as I did, is an experience, and offers insights, that cannot be replaced by looking at a screen in a glass-and-steel box, no matter how sophisticated. It could only be condoned by those who have mistaken information for knowledge, and knowledge for wisdom.

By Rosemary Bancro...
on

I too, like Patrick Curry, deplore the withdrawal from readers' use of Duke Humfreys library where I did most of the research for my doctorate and a recent book on a 16th century Cretan Greek playwright. The atmosphere of peace and devoted scholarship in a lofty and beautiful place, hallowed by centuries of study, was conducive to creative thought -- no modern building can replace that. I want to know to what use that ancient library is now to be put -- and I would deplore any attempt to use it for raising money.

Add new comment